Today, in celebration of the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. I am reflecting on what justice means (and how to get it). Reverend King is to be admired as a martyr for freedom, an example of dignity, and a leader for all campaigns against inequality. While the racial issues of Rev. King’s day have yet to be resolved in this country and the woes of the world are expansive, I choose to channel the hope of Rev. King.
In his infamous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech I am moved by Rev. King’s call to move forward:
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?"
And while MLK Jr. continues his speech by calling out the plight of black citizens across the country, I have written my own version inspired by his spirit. In addition to racial, religious, gender, income and other inequalities we face daily, we are facing exacerbated climate change. As a multi-racial, Buddhist, female from very modest economic means all of these issues are important and not lost on me. In addition to standing up against the adversities I face everyday I must speak to the increasing social inequality caused by climate change. So here I go…
We can never be satisfied as long as the 99% cannot afford the protections from heat, drought, flood and winds. We can never be satisfied, as long the wealthy can pollute freely and the poor have not the opportunity. We cannot be satisfied as long as disaster destroys the homes we drip with sweat to build and we sacrifice all our comforts to feed ourselves. We can never be satisfied as long as our children must carry an unfair burden of the paying for our climatic indiscretions. We cannot be satisfied as long as our institutions are in the pockets of companies profiting and our government cannot hear our voice. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Read Rev. King's actual words here).
And as Rev. King said:
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
And we all deserve an equal chance at a life worth living.